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Published July 21, 2021. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
You will absolutely love this simple to prepare easy shrimp cocktail recipe that serves as the perfect appetizer for any gourmet meal.
I am a huge seafood lover and try to eat it as often as possible. It can definitely be hard to think up new ideas on how to prepare fresh fish or shellfish, and if you’re looking for some new things to try out then absolutely try my Grilled Swordfish or Pan Seared Scallops.
Shrimp cocktail is a very popular appetizer on American restaurant menus across the United States. A shrimp cocktail consists of boiled and chilled shrimp that is often served up on the ice with cocktail sauce and garnished with lemon and leafy or parsley greens.
The shrimp cocktail became famous in the early 20th century as it was often seen on menus at “cocktail lounges.” The word “cocktail” was used to describe many things during this time including dresses, parties, pianists, you name it. Shrimp cocktail was often served up at these events, and since then it has taken off.
Sizes of Shrimp
There are many different sizes of shrimp that can be purchased via your local fish or grocery market. It is my personal opinion that larger shrimp make for a better more delicious shrimp cocktail. Often times large shrimp are referred to as, “prawns.” Here are some sizes of shrimp that I would consider for this recipe:
Extra Colossal: U10 or 10 shrimp or less per pound.
Super Colossal: U12 or 12 shrimp or less per pound.
Colossal: 13-15 or 13 to 15 shrimp per pound.
Extra Jumbo: 16-20 or 16 to 20 shrimp per pound
Extra Large: 26-30 or 26 to 30 shrimp per pound.
How to Make Shrimp Cocktail from Scratch
Follow along with these easy to prepare instructions for making homemade shrimp cocktail from scratch:
Add the lemons, salt, and pickling spice to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
Place the shell on deveined shrimp into the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or just until cooked.
Remove the shrimp and immediately place them into an ice bath and chill until completely cold.
Once cool, peel the shrimp completely.
Serve with cocktail sauce or keep cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make this up to 1 day ahead of time.
How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before serving.
chef notes + tips
- I used extra colossal size shrimp in this recipe and if you are using smaller-sized shrimp then the cooking times will decrease by 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds.
- You can use completely peeled shrimp in this recipe if that is all you have, but cooking times will decrease as well by 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds
- The water should taste as salty as the ocean which means will vary in quantity depending on how much water you are using.
- An ice bath is a container filled with water and a lot of ice.
More Seafood Recipes
Easy Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
- Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice from them into a medium size pot of water, and then add the squeezed lemons in as well.
- Next, add in the pickling spice and salt and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Place the shrimp into the boiling water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until firm and done.
- Immediately transfer the shrimp to an ice bath to cool.
- Once cool, drain and peel the shrimp leaving the tail still on and serve with cocktail sauce or cover and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.